Tag Archives: Abhishek Bachchan

Opening January 6: Players

2012 kicks off in star-studded style when the Bollywood action film Players hits theaters on January 6. The remake of The Italian Job (complete with Mini Coopers) stars Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol and Neil Nitin Mukesh.

Players opens in the Chicago area on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The movie has a lengthy runtime of 2 hrs. 47 min.

Given how well Don 2 has performed during its first two weeks in theaters, it’s no surprise that the 3D heist film carries over for a third week at all of the above theaters. Its total U.S. haul stands at $3,288,692.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Beautiful (Malayalam), Rajanna (Telugu) and Rajapattai (Tamil).

Movie Review: Bluffmaster! (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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After being disappointed by Dum Maaro Dum, I decided to check out the first collaboration between Abhishek Bachchan and director Rohan Sippy: Bluffmaster! The pair’s first effort is clearly the superior of the two.

Bachchan stars in Bluffmaster! as conman Roy Kapoor. His heists have netted him loads of cash, and he has a sweet girlfriend named Simi (Priyanka Chopra) who thinks he’s a stockbroker. Simi learns the truth about him when a movie producer Roy conned shows up at their wedding.

Six months later, as Roy mourns his failed relationship with Simi, he watches a pair of small-time con artists trick a doctor out of his wallet. Roy retrieves the wallet and earns the friendship of the doctor, Bhalerao (Boman Irani). One of the cons, Dittu (Ritesh Deshmukh) is so impressed with Roy’s skills that he asks to become Roy’s student.

While Roy contemplates Dittu’s offer, he begins experiencing blackouts. Dr. Bhalerao discovers an inoperable brain tumor and gives Roy just months to live. Given Roy’s history of untruths, Simi assumes Roy’s brain tumor story is a trick and slams the door on him.

Dittu, unaware of Roy’s condition, explains that a prominent hotelier tricked his father out of his life savings. Roy decides to spend the little time he has left helping Dittu get his father’s money back. It’s the first time in Roy’s life that he’s ever put someone else’s needs above his own.

What distinguishes Bluffmaster! from Dum Maaro Dum is the former’s superior plot structure. While Dum Maaro Dum is mired in flashbacks and sideplots, Bluffmaster! moves forward at a steady clip. Just as it appears Roy may have a chance to win Simi back after all, his scheme with Dittu becomes more complicated than he expected. All the while, the threat of imminent death hangs over Roy’s head.

Bluffmaster! is based on the Argentine movie Nine Queens, which was also remade in America as Criminal. Additionally, Bluffmaster! shares similarities with Hollywood films like The Game and Matchstick Men. All of these movies directly or indirectly supply the template for Bluffmaster!. Meticulous continuity is the only way to make such a complex story work, and it does so in Sippy’s sophomore directorial effort.

The acting is uniformly good. Bachchan brings charm to a character who is initially a selfish crook. Irani is stellar as an elder who sees potential in Roy and has great affection for him. Chopra and Deshmukh are solid as the skeptic and the sidekick, respectively.


Movie Review: Dum Maaro Dum (2011)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Copious amounts of sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, fights, chases and torture fail to liven up the dull and disorganized Dum Maaro Dum.

An opening shot of a dead body, accompanied by a voiceover by Abhishek Bachchan about the deadly drug trade in Goa, suggest a riveting tale of murder and corruption in a beachfront paradise. As soon as the opening credits finish, boredom sets in.

The movie is immediately mired in the backstory of one of the side characters, a teen named Lorry (Prateik Babbar). Lorry can’t afford to join his girlfriend at college in America, so he accepts a job as a drug mule, in order to earn the money for tuition. What I just summarized in one sentence takes up 25 minutes of screentime.

Twitchy-looking Lorry gets busted at the Goa airport by Kamath (Bachchan), a formerly corrupt vice cop trying to redeem himself after the accidental deaths of his wife and son. Kamath sends Lorry to jail, but the kid won’t reveal the whereabouts of the mysterious drug kingpin “Michael Barbosa.”

Kamath gets help from a musician name Joki (Rana Daggubati) in exchange for leniency for Lorry. Joki’s ex-girlfriend, Zoe (Bipasha Basu), is currently seeing another major drug dealer, Lorsa Biscuta (Aditya Pancholi). If anyone knows where Barbosa is, it’s Biscuta.

The plot isn’t nearly as straightforward as the above recap. There are flashbacks to pointless backstory, which prevents giving the characters enough time to grow (and grow on us) as events unfold in the modern-day.

This presents a serious problem, as Kamath — the presumptive, though not explicitly defined, lead character — is a monster. In addition to Kamath’s corrupt past and his penchant for beating up suspects, he sodomizes a drug runner with a pistol in order to make the guy confess. The movie’s villains may rack up a higher body count, but Kamath’s methods are more brutal and vile.

Substituting backstory for character development brings the action of the film to a crawl. Boring exposition about events not germane to the current situation is punctuated by party scenes, sex scenes and fight scenes. If you spend most of the film rudely texting on your cell phone, only to look up when the music cues something exciting on-screen, you might be fooled into thinking Dum Maaro Dum is an exciting movie.

The climax of the movie is actually pretty clever — so much so that the producers canceled the gala premiere in order to preserve the secret ending. But it seems as though writer Shridhar Raghavan started with the climax and struggled to craft the story that leads up to it.

Perhaps the poster tells us everything we need to know about Dum Maaro Dum. The poster features the svelte torso of Deepika Padukone, who makes a special appearance in a performance of the title track. Padukone is onscreen for all of five minutes, in a dance number that happens one hour and 45 minutes into the film. It is the best part of the movie.


Opening April 22: Dum Maaro Dum and Zokkomon

Two new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area the weekend beginning April 22, 2011. The Disney live-action superhero flick Zokkomon gets a limited release, opening on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

The other new Bollywood movie opening this weekend is Dum Maaro Dum, a gangster drama set in Goa starring Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu.

Dum Maaro Dum opens on Friday at four area theaters: AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. The film has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 12 min.

Thank You, having earned $392,194 in the U.S. so far, gets a third week at the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include KO (Tamil), Mr. Perfect (Telugu) and Teen Maar (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5.

Movie Review: Game (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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The murder mystery genre is a well-established one — so much so that audiences have internalized the genre’s rules, whether consciously or not. Game breaks a number of rules that the genre demands must be followed, ruining what is otherwise a great-looking and well-acted movie.

Game starts with a promising contrivance. Billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) summons four people to his private Greek island right at the moment they are most in need of rescue. Tisha (Shahana Goswami) is caught driving drunk, O.P. (Boman Irani) is about to lose his political career, Neil (Abhishek Bachchan) is on the run from Colombian drug dealers, and Vikram (Jimmy Shergill) has a suitcase with a dead body stuffed inside.

Malhotra’s generous offer isn’t quite what it seems. He holds the three men responsible for the untimely death of a daughter he never knew he had. And Tisha is his dead daughter Maya’s fraternal twin sister. Malhotra has enough dirt on the men to ruin their lives, dirt which he plans to turn over to international authorities in the morning.

The circumstances of Maya’s death are divulged within the first 30 minutes of a 135 minute movie, so that’s clearly not the movie’s real mystery. Instead of moving the story forward from that point, the plot is interrupted by Neil flashing back to Maya (Sarah-Jane Dias) performing a burlesque dance number, ruining the flow of the film.

At the fifty minute mark, the true mystery is finally revealed. Malhotra dies alone in his office — presumably by his own hand — and all of his evidence on the men is destroyed. The international authorities arrive, but lead inspector Sia (Kangana Ranaut) is forced to let the four invitees go home. Her primary suspect, for no apparent reason, is Neil, and she begins trailing him to uncover his guilt.

There’s a lot to like about Game. Bachchan and Ranaut are compelling leads, and veterans Kher and Irani deliver as always. Goswami and Shergill make the most of their supporting roles. The movie is beautifully shot in gorgeous locations in India, Turkey, Thailand, England and Greece. There are a few great action sequences and one painful jogging chase scene that ends when the pursuers succumb to sprained ankles and side cramps.

But the film’s plot has some issues that are too large to be glossed over. To paraphrase a familiar axiom about mysteries, the outcome must, in retrospect, feel unpredictable but inevitable. There’s nothing about the ultimate outcome of Game that is any way inevitable, despite a few half-hearted attempts at retroactive continuity.

The introduction of new major characters, illogical plot twists, and ludicrous revelations dominate the last 30 minutes of the movie. Plot twists can’t exist independently for the sake of shock value alone; they must exist in service of the larger story (or else they’d just be called “twists”).

The filmmakers didn’t understand that, after a good mystery, the audience should leave saying,  “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.” Instead, Game‘s audiences will exit theaters wondering, “Where the hell did that come from?”


Opening April 1: Game

With the Cricket World Cup winding down, India turns its attention back to the movies. Game — the first Hindi film to open in the Chicago area since February 25 — stars Abhishek Bachchan as one of four suspected murderers summoned to an island to determine the identity of the real killer. The strong cast also includes Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Kangana Ranaut and Jimmy Shergill.

Game opens on Friday, April 1, 2011, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Tanu Weds Manu — the Bollywood romantic comedy that opened back on February 25 — continues its run at the Golf Glen 5.

Other Indian movies showing in the area this weekend include Christian Brothers (Malayalam) and Shakti (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also carrying Shakti.

Movie Review: Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Sixty-three years after the end of the British Raj, it’s clear that the Brits were in the wrong in their oppression and exploitation of South Asians. At the time, however, both sides — the oppressors and the oppressed — felt victimized when they were on the receiving end of a violent attack. One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

Oscar-nominated director Ashutosh Gowariker’s latest, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, tells the story of one act of rebellion during the Raj: the Chittagong Uprising of 1930.

At the time the movie takes place, groups of freedom fighters, impatient with the slow progress of Ghandhi’s passive resistance, opt for violence as a means of ousting the British from India. In Chittagong, the local resistance group is led by Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan), a schoolteacher who uses his meager salary to organize a small group of fighters.

Surjya is able to expand his plans to drive the Brits from Chittagong when a simple act brings a large group of new recruits his way: the army takes over the local soccer field to use as a camp. The town’s teenagers, outraged at being evicted from their pitch, ask for Surjya’s help in reclaiming it.

Surjya hatches a plan to simultaneously take over strategic points in town, including the telegraph office, the armory and army barracks. He’s aided by two female recruits, Kalpana (Deepika Padukone) and Pritilata (Vishakha Singh), who engage in reconnaissance by posing as maids.

Before the plan can be executed, Surjya must train his army of gangly teens. Though the boys are committed to the cause, they’re still kids and not eager to martyr themselves. As one boy observes, what good is freedom if you’re not alive to enjoy it? The first half of the movie covers the group’s preparations, and the second deals with the raid and its aftermath. (Given that the British didn’t leave India until seventeen years later, I suspected the raid wouldn’t be a complete success.)

Stills at the beginning of the movie state that the plot is taken directly from written accounts of people involved in the Chittagong Uprising. Gowariker chooses realism over big-screen clichés in his portrayal of the moving story. Characters act like real young people faced with mortal danger for the first times in their lives would: scared and confused instead of fearlessly self-assured. The absence of timely motivational speeches is refreshing.

That realism makes the movie engaging and the story of their rebellion that much more inspiring. A lifetime spent watching movies with happy endings makes you believe that maybe these plucky kids really can drive out their oppressors and go back to playing soccer. But, from our experience with the characters, we know that isn’t possible, even if the teens think it is.

The performances are solid throughout. Bachchan, Padukone and the other adult characters are riveting, as they begin to realize how they’ve endangered the teens in their care. The teens are endearing, both awkward and noble as they muster up all the courage they’ve amassed in their limited amount of life experience. The soundtrack is catchy, yet appropriate for the somber story.

I just finished reading the book Three Cups of Tea, about one American’s attempts to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In it, he recounts a story of American military helicopters flying low over an open air girls’ school, the resulting wake knocking over and breaking the school’s only blackboard.

Civilian casualties and night raids on houses get all of the publicity, but we can never know what small act — like taking over a soccer field or, perhaps, destroying a blackboard — might be the final straw that pushes a young person to violence. I wonder how our own treatment of the civilians under our care will be viewed 63 years after we leave Afghanistan.


Movie Review: Raavan (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s latest, Raavan, is his modern retelling of an ancient Indian epic, The Ramayana. By shifting the focus away from the poem’s hero and onto the villain and his victim, Ratnam successfully updates the classic story.

In a nutshell, the Ramayana (at least the part Raavan is about) tells of the kidnapping of Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, by the demon king Ravana. With the help of Hanuman, the monkey-god, Rama rescues Sita.

The story’s denouement has always troubled me. After the rescue, Rama asks Sita to prove her purity by stepping in to a sacred fire, since she had spent a long time with Ravana as his captive. She steps out unharmed, thus proving that she hasn’t been molested (and therefore unfaithful) during her imprisonment.

The couple rules happily until unfounded rumors about Sita’s purity crop up again. Rama banishes his pregnant wife to the forest. Years later, Sita arranges for Rama to meet his twin sons. After they win his approval, Sita asks the ground to swallow her up, and she disappears.

Perhaps if I’d grown up with the Ramayana as my source for spiritual parables, I might not find the ending of the story so sad for poor Sita. Due to her unflinching loyalty, she’s considered the pinnacle of wifely virtue. I’m happy to be an imperfect wife if it means not being burned, banished and buried alive. But Sita gets her say in Raavan.

The movie begins with a wave of attacks on police officers in a remote, forested area of India controlled by a warlord named Beera (Abhishek Bachchan). During the chaos, Beera kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the wife of the new police chief, Dev (Vikram).

Beera’s plan is to wait fourteen hours and then kill Ragini. Beera changes his mind after she jumps off of a cliff to avoid giving him the pleasure of killing her. Ragini survives the jump, and her fearlessness intrigues Beera. He holds her captive, as Dev searches for his wife with the help of a spry forest ranger named Sanjeevani (Govinda).

Raavan is undeniably gorgeous. Perpetually overcast skies saturate the greens and browns of the forest, and Ragini’s mustard yellow dress makes her glow like a flame. It’s hard to believe the exterior locations where the movie was shot are even real, so amazing are the rivers, rocks and waterfalls that populate Beera’s realm.

The first half of the movie is mostly a chase, as Beera draws Dev further into the jungle. I began to fear that there would be no explanation for why the two hate each other, apart from the fact that Beera’s the villain and Dev’s the hero. But the second half explores why Beera and the villagers who harbor his gang are at war with the police. As Ragini learns more, she prays for the strength to stay angry at Beera, even as she starts to sympathize with him.

Bachchan’s performance as Beera is generally strong. In the epic, Ravana has ten heads. In the movie, Beera exhibits some schizophrenic symptoms, arguing aloud with the voices in his head. His quirks are more distracting than menacing. There’s no doubt that he’s a violent man, but there’s a moral code governing his actions.

The Rama and Hanuman characters get second billing in Raavan. Govinda is well-suited to play the fidgety sidekick. Dev’s duties are pretty straightforward: find the girl, kill the bad guy. Yet he does many things that aren’t heroic at all. Eventually, these dubious actions form a pattern of behavior. Is he perhaps the story’s real villain?

Throughout Raavan, Ragini transforms from fighter to observer to negotiator. She has a powerful will to live on her own terms, refusing to be a victim, yet with more flexibility than either of the men in her life are capable of. Rai Bachchan endows Ragini with both a savage sense of self-preservation and dignity — fitting for a modern version of the ever-loyal Sita.

Note: The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min., but it’s closer to 2 hrs. 15 min.


Retro Review: Yuva (2004)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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My recent (and long overdue) viewing of Dil Se sparked my interest in other films by Mani Ratnam. I thought 2007’s Guru was okay, and I was interested in watching some of the director’s previous films. I was pleased to discover a copy of Yuva at my local library and even more pleased by the movie itself.

Yuva (“Youth”) begins with a drive-by shooting on a bridge. Arjun (Vivek Oberoi) sees Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan) shoot Michael (Ajay Devgan), the stranger who’d just given him a ride on the back of his motorbike. The context for the shooting is provided in three flashbacks, one for each of the young men.

Lallan is a career criminal who does the dirty work for his older brother, Gopal (Sonu Sood), an aide to the corrupt politician Prosonjit Bhattacharya (Om Puri). Violence permeates his life. When Lallan isn’t beating up student protesters, he smacks around his wife, Sashi (Rani Mukerji), who clings to the hope that he’ll find a respectable job. That becomes unlikely when he’s contracted to kill Michael.

Michael is a student leader who inspires disenfranchised village voters to stand up against politicians like Bhattacharya. When need be, he’s not afraid to resort to violence, just like the politicians he opposes. The contract for Michael’s death is issued after he and dozens of students invade Gopal’s home as a means of intimidation.

Arjun is a recent college graduate who dreams of moving to the United States. He considers changing his plans after meeting Mira (Kareena Kapoor), who’s engaged to someone else. He stops Michael on the street and begs him to chase after Mira’s taxi, which they catch up to on the bridge.

The trend in American movies and TV shows with a similar construction is for the opening scene to double as a climactic scene, but Yuva’s opening scene returns to end the first half of the movie. The second half sees the three men decide whether to continue on their present paths, or make a change for the future. Their lives intersect again in the climax.

While the plot is generally about politics, Yuva‘s main theme is violence. It’s a gory film, compared to other Hindi movies. Even though most of the violence involves fists, it graphically shows just how much damage a punch can do.

The three main characters relate to violence in different ways. It defines Lallan, who learned to fend for himself after being abandoned by Gopal at a young age. He can’t get away from it, even for the sake of his pregnant wife.

Arjun fights as a matter of self-preservation. As the witness to a violent crime, his life is in danger unless he’s prepared to defend himself.

Michael’s relationship with violence is the most complex. As a student leader, he opposes the brutal tactics of intimidation employed by some established politicians, yet he’s happy to pick a fight with their goons to achieve his own ends. He’s more of a populist than Bhattacharya, but one wonders if he’s really interested in changing the political culture.

Yuva is engrossing and fascinating, as it seems to present a practice of politics so different from that in America. But with a man bringing a gun to a presidential rally last summer and an armed march in April to demand Second Amendment rights, it might not be as different as we think.

Opening February 26: Karthik Calling Karthik and Teen Patti

Two new Hindi movies open in Chicago area theaters on Friday, February 26, 2010. Karthik Calling Karthik stars Farhan Akhtar as the shy title character who secretly loves his coworker, Shonali (Deepika Padukone). Their lives change when Karthik gets a phone call from a man also claiming to be Karthik.

I’m not sure what to expect from KCK. The official description makes it sound like a romantic comedy, while the trailer makes it look like a thriller. But Akhtar and Padukone are my two favorite actors, so I trust them to make a compelling movie.

The other movie opening this weekend is Teen Patti. The thriller stars Amitabh Bachchan, R. Madhavan and Ben Kingsley as mathematicians who find a way to win at teen patti (a card game similar to poker) and recruit some college students to help them test their equation in casinos. The premise sounds similar to that of the 2008 Hollywood film 21.

Both films are showing at two suburban Chicago theaters this weekend: AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.

The South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30 are carrying over My Name Is Khan for a third week, which continues showing at AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago and Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles as well. MNIK earned over $700,000 in its second week in U.S. theaters, bringing its total earnings to $3,253,168 so far.

3 Idiots leaves U.S. theaters after 9 weeks, having earned $6,523,103.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Drona (Malayalam — not Abhishek Bachchan’s Drona), Leader (Telugu), and Vinnai Thaandi Varuvayaa (Tamil) and Ye Maya Chesave (Telugu), which are the same movie filmed at the same time, only in different languages and with different actors in key roles. Both VTV and YMC feature music by A. R. Rahman.